Glodok Temples: Jakarta

If there is one feature that heavily characterizes everyday life in Glodok, it is the temples.

In fact, the oldest Chinese temple in Jakarta is located on Jl. Kemenangan, just behind the busy strip of Gajah Mada.

The temple, known as Jin De Yuan or Kim Tek Ie (meaning “golden wisdom”) dates back to 1650. It was built by Chinese lieutenant Kwee Hoen, who initially named the temple Koan Im Teng, as an honor to goddess Kwan Im.

The Taoist temple was burnt down during the 1740 massacre, but rebuilt in 1755 by Chinese captain Oei Tjhie.

The layout of the place, similar to that of other Chinese temples, reveals that although it is referred to as a polytheistic religion, Taoism believes in a higher creator.

Before praying at the shrines to several gods inside the temple building, one first prays to the sky, where Thi Kong, the highest creator, resides.

“The gods inside are just the representatives of the holiest creator,” explains the temple’s website

On the days of new moon and full moon, or the 1st and 15th days of the Chinese month, the temple fills with those praying for God’s protection and prosperity.

“The place will be filled with smoke from the burnt hio (incense) and people will walk from one shrine to another,” said Acong, the caretaker of the temple.

All the necessary offerings for praying are sold at a corner shop behind the entrance.

“The basic is hio. If people have more money, they will buy candles and these papers,” said a woman vendor, pointing to piles of yellow and red paper cut in diamond shapes.

Outside, in the front courtyard and the narrow alley of the side entrance, beggars line up waiting for generous visitors.

“Some of them have been here for ages,” said Acong, who has worked for the temple for more than 30 years.

One does not have to be a Taoist to be able to enjoy the enticing aura of the temple. Its architecture is aesthetically pleasing as well as having a religious purpose.

Beside Jan De Yuan, is a younger temple known as Toa Se Bio, built a few centuries later than the first one. Here, curious wanderers can get a short course on Taoism.

“That is what I am here for,” said Welly, caretaker of the temple.
Welly asks the beliefs of curious visitors and leads them on a tour inside while reminding them that they should speak to the god they believe in.

“These are just a different representation of what others believe in,” he said.

Inside, there are six shrines to six different gods and goddesses, plus a special room inside dedicated to a Muslim Chinese who once lived in Gunung Kawi, East Java.

“See, we also keep the Koran here,” Welly said, taking a worn Koran from a shelf.

Here, in Chinese temples, it seems that people learn more than religious beliefs. They also learn a basic lesson of humanity, respecting the beliefs of others.

Anissa S. Febrina